Who has the bigger title threat - Arsenal or Tottenham?

North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham sit pretty at the top of the Premier League table, level on points but which one of the sides have the better chance of being there in May?

Presently, after five games played, both sides have won four and lost one each – neither have drawn any of their games – Arsenal have scored 11 and conceded 6 (plus 5 goal difference) and Spurs have scored 5 and conceded just 1 (plus four goals difference).

Arsenal beat Spurs 1-0 in the North London derby at the beginning of this month, ending a run of 11 games unbeaten in the Premier League dating back to March. Arsenal meanwhile, have been on an unbeaten run this term of four games since their opening day defeat to Aston Villa. The Gunners have been in fine form since then and new signing Mesut Ozil seems to have given the whole club a lift and a positive outlook.

Tottenham spent more than any other club this summer, after selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world record fee, they brought in 7 players for a total of £103.7 million (although they sold six players for a combined £106.75 million and released 7 others).

Arsenal brought in Ozil for £42.5 million and re-signed Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer as well as youngster Yaya Sanogo after releasing 22 players in total (including youth and reserve team players) and sold two for a combined £10 million.

Looking at Tottenham’s squad, prior to the arrival of Ozil at the Emirates, there’s no doubt about it, Spurs have the quality, the depth and the competition for places to pose a genuine threat to the tile but when it came to the derby this month, it was abundantly clear those players will need to take time to acquaint themselves and find cohesion in their play.

In contrast, Arsenal kept all of their first-team players this summer, for the first time in a long time, and, the Villa defeat aside, you can see their understanding and chemistry is already there – they’re basically kicking on from where they left off last term but, crucially, as Jose Mourinho asserted, Ozil’s arrival makes them title challengers this term.

Arsenal have been beating teams without breaking into a sweat so far but, it’s important to note that they have yet to play any team in the top seven apart from Spurs this term – in fact they won’t do until they face Liverpool in November.

The Gunners have yet to be tested by the likes of the Manchester sides and Chelsea, whom Spurs will face in their next league game at White Hart Lane, incidentally.

So far, Spurs’ lack of cohesion shows in their relatively low goal tally – they’ve averaged a goal a game, compared to the Gunners’ 2.2 goals per game so far but, crucially, Spurs have kept four clean sheets and conceded just that one solitary goal at the Emirates.

Over the course of the season, Spurs’ superior squad depth will likely play a big role in their success over the 38 games but, on the other hand, Arsenal have arguably an ‘injury crisis’ on at present and yet they’ve coped remarkably well regardless.

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger obviously have the greater experience in terms of winning the league and making the top four but Tottenham’s project at White Hart Lane is something of a revolution and Andre Villas-Boas is one of the most capable young managers on the planet with the will to bring his aims to fruition.

When Spurs play Chelsea next weekend we’ll get a good game to gage whether they can truly mount a title challenge and threaten the Manchester sides genuinely but, for Arsenal, we won’t be able to see them tested against the best until they play United in mid-November.

I think over the next three or four years, Tottenham may have the greater ammunition within their ranks to eclipse Arsenal’s present armoury in terms of title challenges but, for this season, Spurs’ young stars and new signings are going to need time to gel and I think this is where Arsenal will have the upper hand, for now, at least but, alas, only time will tell.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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